Sunday, 3 August 2008

Snow in the Mountains

That winter in Switzerland throws up a lot of memories, most of them amusing.

On the first day, there is a welcome dinner to which I go in casual wear. To my horror I find I am the odd man out with everyone else attired in formal suits.

Heinz Lehman takes me out for lunch to a posh restaurant in Zurich. As a starter, I order a “Crisp Californian Salad” from the menu and get a small, lovely cabbage cut in half with an elegant dollop of white sauce on the side.

In Frauenfeld, I walk into a bar after purchasing a Rubik’s Cube, which was a rage those days. Sipping a beer, I take out the undisturbed cube, turning it around in my hand, admiring the smooth finish and reluctant to start rotating the panel. Suddenly I find myself surrounded by excited people who look at me admiringly and ask me to demonstrate the solution to the puzzle.

Then travelling by train to Engelberg and taking several ski-lifts to arrive on top of Mount Titlis to be greeted by the Sri Lankan in the souvenir shop with: “Vanakkam saar, neengal Tamizha?” (Welcome sir, Are you a Tamilian?).

Schmick giving me a short lecture on how to drink beer: The first beer should never be sipped, but gulped down in one shot or maximum two. That is the only way the beer can hit your sweet spot, he says with utmost seriousness.

Lucerne. The picturesque lake nestling under the majestic gaze of snow-capped Mount Pilatus. The famous wooden bridge across the river Reuss before it was partially destroyed by fire in 1993.

Snow. Miles and miles of it. Enchanting to behold. Exhilarating to touch, to feel, to hold in your hands.

I was seeing snow for the first time in my life.

On the last day, there is a farewell dinner to which I wear a tie and a jacket only to find I have got it wrong this time also.

Everyone else is in casuals!

Photo Courtesy: Abhishek's Public Gallery, Picasa Wb Albums


Ravi said...

In the early 80's you had got me a cube from Europe which I still had when I left India in 1986 :-),.....

Vijay said...

Ha ha.. loved the last line...

Lekhni said...

I have heard the joke about Mallus being everywhere and that you can't climb the Himalayas without finding a Nair tea shop on Everest base camp :) But Sri Lankan souvenir shops is a new one!
More seriously, Switzerland does have a lot of Sri Lankan Tamils, right?

Thiruvengadam said...

This anecdote immediately refreshes my memories of my first overseas visit. But it was the other way round for me. I entered the welcome dinner with a full formal suit amidst the gathering who were all at their casual best!

But it is quite hilarious that you got it wrong on the second occasion too!

Rada said...

@Ravi: Yes, I remember. You became quite adept at solving the puzzle with constant practice!

@ Vijay: Thanks!

@Lekhni: Yes, Switzerland does have a fairly large population of Sri Lankan Tamils, most of them fleeing their homeland when trouble erupted in the mid 80s!

@Thiruvengadam: Welcome back! Where were you all these days, my friend? :-)

virgo48 said...

Hi yes I remeber Heinz Lehamann a lot. We landed once in Calcutta and he did not have a hotel reservation. He insited he would stay only at Oberoi Grand he slept one night at the helath club

Cynic in Wonderland said...

i want to go there now. but im scared of heights. hmm maybe will just have to see postcards?

Thiruvengadam said...

Thanks Rada, but I regularly visit your blog... and feel zapped with your narrations. Particularly the below words sound very poetic:

Snow. Miles and miles of it. Enchanting to behold. Exhilarating to touch, to feel, to hold in your hands...

Keep churning out more for our reading pleasure !

Velayudhan said...

typical of a mallu....
Yes, as observed correctly by your friend, you are becoming more poetic. Velus

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Stepping Sideways... by K. Radhakrishnan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.